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Research 101

Research Support

The faculty and staff at the library do our best to help students and faculty with literature searches and to assist in the production and publication of literature reviews. A literature review does not present an original argument. Rather, the purpose is to offer an overview of what is known about the topic and to evaluate the strength of the evidence presented. It usually contains a summary, a synthesis, and an analysis of the key arguments in the existing literature. The literature may come from books, articles, reports or other formats. Sources may even contradict each other. A literature review also helps distinguish what research has been done and identify further research needs.

Understanding Information Resources

Traditional or Narrative Literature Review:

  • Critiques and summarizes a body of literature
  • Draws conclusions about the topic
  • Identifies gaps or inconsistencies in a body of knowledge
  • Requires a sufficiently focused research question 

Systematic Literature Review:

  • More rigorous and well-defined approach
  • Comprehensive
  • Published and unpublished studies relating to a particular subject area
  • Details the time frame within which the literature was selected
  • Details the methods used to evaluate and synthesize findings of the studies in question


  • A form of systematic review
  • Takes findings from several studies on the same subject and analyzes them using standardized statistical procedures
  • Integrates findings from a large body of quantitative findings to enhance understanding (study=unit of analysis)
  • Draws conclusions and detect patterns and relationships

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